BNMC’s Healthy Communities Team Attends USDA Agriculture and Marketing Summit
In early October, the BNMC Healthy Communities team attended the USDA Agriculture and Marketing Summit in Rosemont, IL, as one of 44 organizations in the United States that received the Local Foods Promotion Program (LFPP) Grant. This conference was a platform to connect with other grantees, learn best practices in promoting local food, and attend a tour of Local Foods grocery store.
We had the opportunity to meet with farmers working as agents of change to solve problems in their regional food systems. Some were creating technology solutions and another established a cost-sharing model equated to “Uber for farmers” to streamline distribution efforts. Flannel seemed to be a prominent clothing choice!
BNMC was one of only a few institutions in attendance, and the only organization focused on bringing local food to health care.
Farm-to-School in Boulder Valley
One of the institutions BNMC met with was Boulder Valley School District in Boulder, CO, who sources over 25% of its food from a 50-mile radius to feed its more than 31,000 students with scratch cooked meals. Our team learned about the various promotional events BVSD hosts to support the success of their local foods program and how they educate parents and the greater community about these efforts. These events included almost 40 field trips for students, staff, and parents to local farms; school food festivals with recipes from the cafeteria; hosting “Community Conversations” for farmers to connect with consumers; and 200+ education events the school hosts for parents and community each year to share the project widely. Other than promoting local foods, another major aspect of their program is focusing on only hormone and antibiotic free meats, as well as only using vendors offering RPC’s (re-useable plastic containers). Although this model was from a school-setting, many of the practices at the school level can be translated into hospital and healthcare.
A Truly Local Grocery Store
Also included in the conference was a tour of Local Foods, a Chicago-based grocery store focused on sourcing products that are locally sourced, locally processed, and from ethical producers and suppliers for non-local items. The tour included a lunch featuring the best quality seasonal foods from mid-west farmers and a behind-the-scenes look at their impressive operations, storage, and tracking mechanisms. Local Foods has a whole animal butchery, which purchases and uses the whole animal to sell in their retail location since these items cannot go through the distribution channel. This is beneficial for ranchers as by purchasing the entire animal ranchers aren’t stuck with trying to sell the remaining parts of the animal. For the consumer, it means higher quality, better tasting meat, and a known source to where one’s meal came from. No more mystery meat!
Fresh Ideas for FreshTakes
On the last day of the conference, we attended a panel discussion on promoting and marketing local foods by three companies in the greater “Chicagoland” region, featuring Local Foods, Mighty Vine Tomatoes, and Farmer’s Fridge. This was a special moment for the BNMC team as the Farmers Fridge model was the inspiration for bringing the FreshTakes Smart Fridge to the Medical Campus. We fan-crushed a little bit, and bought their salads and snacks from the fridge in the Chicago O’Hare airport. It did not disappoint! From the panel, the team learned better ways to promote the FreshTakes smart fridges on Campus as well as how to break the traditional stereotype for vending machines being unhealthy. Additionally, based off of the Mighty Vine Tomatoes and Local Foods model, we will share successful industry practices with our community partners all in the WNY regional food system.